Filthy lucre, ain’t nothing new, but we all get cash from the chaos – Sex Pistols
Dough, cabbage, moolah, quid. Use any euphemism you want, but it stood between the 11 year old me, and a landmark 8-track blowout at the Columbia Record Club. 99 cents each for the original endless loop cartridges! My parents had recently banned me from collecting discarded beer bottles alongside the 401 citing the danger involved. It was the early 80s, and judging by the cash load of empties in the ditch, there was obviously a lot of Dodge Darts weaving onto the shoulders. Anxious to earn, I learned that a few of my soccer teammates were going to detassel corn in the coming weeks. I had no idea what it meant, but at $2.25 an hour, I was stoked! You had to be 12 years old, however, my heightened status as “back-row, center” for every class photo allowed me to furtively board the bus among the other jean cut-offs and mullets. The bus chugged along, until our next stop in downtown St. Thomas. My brow furrowed as about a dozen 15 year old, recently paroled “juvies” ceased mugging an old lady and boarded our bus. What is this – a work release program? Their leader, looking like a Rumble Fish era Matt Dillon, sauntered to the back after knocking the ball caps off every kid’s head on the way. After relocating all the kids from the 2 back rows with a grunt, his cronies followed suit and flopped into the green, vinyl seats with a laugh. Bullying immediately ensued. Eyes averted, and facing forward, I tucked my Silver Spoons lunch pail under my seat. The ruffians’ collective failure to pack a lunch likely had no impact on whether they would be eating one. We finally reached our destination, which resembled a Salvador Dali painting of a cornfield that went to infinity. I was clueless as to what I was supposed to be doing, as I had all the rural proficiency of Blair Warner. I simply mirrored others by wandering down the row and plucking random plumes from the top of the cornstalks. Eventually, though, I was getting pretty ticked off. I had been at it for over an hour – where the hell is the bus driver with my $2.25!!
Lunchtime arrived, so everyone gathered back by the bus. Thuggery was today’s special, as the delinquents went around stealing people’s things. I inhaled my Ding Dong and chugged my Tab, leaving my mock chicken sandwich as an offering, if cornered. Just don’t look at them… I remembered hearing if you’re jailed abroad, to always put a cigarette out on your throat – that way they’ll think you’re crazy and leave you alone. I wasn’t sure if we’d reached that phase of survival yet, and I didn’t want to draw attention, either. And besides, where’s this Der Kommissar I keep hearing about? He’d come in handy right now. I, nonetheless, had a double-edged sword. I was big, but youthful looking. Were they gonna leave me alone or make me their bitch?? Fortunately, in an odd paradox, one of them pulled out a butterfly knife, and they kept taking turns trying to flip it open into a combative grip. I was beginning to think, “Screw the 8 tracks, I’ll just keep taping songs off the radio. So what if Strathroy Audio Video rambles over the intro (Ye shood too!!) and the dj chronically waxes philosophic over the closing cymbal crash? Big deal. The choice was made for me anyways because we were in the middle of nowhere, and an hour’s bus ride from home. Furthermore, nobody comes between me and my music.
Before I knew it, though, the day had come to an end and I thought I can do this!! Not that it got much better. Each successive day was a replica of the one before it. Some days I got to eat my mock chicken, some days I didn’t. But the treasure trove that arrived in a shipping crate with my 8 tracks was worth every aimless trip down every corn aisle. And Supertramp never sounded better…